Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Daniel Goleman needs no introduction. The former senior editor of ‘Psychology Today’ is widely known for his Vital Lies, Simple Truths and The Meditative Mind. His groundbreaking bestseller Emotional Intelligence ( Bantam Books, New York, 1995) is yet another landmark in the world of applied psychology. It extracts years of research on human emotions and their behavioral significance to emerge as a lovable book.

Goleman’s approach, as his typical, is demonstratively scientific with a natural appeal to common sense; case studies are nearly fictionalized for the reader’s interest, followed by explanations to answer the questions popping up in the reader’s mind. ‘Emotional Intelligence’ is thus essentially a solution-oriented work. By making explicit the biological nature of emotions-anxiety, fear, anger, and joy- it gets to the roots of problems raised by emotional immaturity. The approach is fruitful since problems whose roots are known are half-solved.

The book carries five main parts: The Emotional Brain (biological basis of emotions), The Nature of Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence Applied (emotions, behavior, and relationships), Windows of Opportunities (relearning emotions), and Emotional Literacy (educating people’s emotions). Appendices and explanatory notes make it a comprehensive edition.

Goleman regards amygdala, the almond-shaped structure above the brainstem, as the seat of all emotions, as contrasted with the ‘thinking brain’-the neocortex. In all cases of our emotional fits, the amygdala hijacks the brain; in a few cases the thinking brain gets time/chance to check the impulse. To refine our personalities of maladaptive emotional tantrums-that lead to problems small as a raging beat to fatal as suicide or murder-we need to strengthen our thinking brain. That this is possible, and experimentally demonstrated, is the crux of the book. Goleman tells of basic emotional skills like self-awareness; identifying, expressing and managing feelings; impulse control and delaying gratification; and handling stress and anxiety. These come from ‘emotional education’, which, according to the author, means not to avoid conflict completely but to resolve it intelligently before it spirals into a fight. And thus we come to know about the ‘Resolving Conflict Creativity Program.’ Goleman effectively epitomizes the point of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ in Erasmus’s quote: ‘The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth.’

With a number of interesting, exciting, pleasing, depressing, and surprising instances from real life, and some great quotes of wisdom, Emotional Intelligence is for everyone who has emotions and needs to know their intelligent use.

ISBN: 0553375067


Friday, November 11, 2005

The Cry for Myth

Renowned psychoanalyst Rollo May rediscovers the vitality of myth to our existence from a psychotherapist’s viewpoint in his The Cry for Myth (Norton and Co., New York, 1991). Defining ‘myths’ as ‘narrative patterns that give significance to our existence’, May stresses the phenomenon of myth making as essential in gaining mental health, particularly in our age of anxiety and disorientation.

May divides his book in three main parts viz. ‘The Function of Myths’, ‘Myths in America’, and ‘Myths of the Western World’. Even in the very first part, it becomes clearer that the author’s therapeutic illustration is yielding to historical and archetypal criticism of myths in literature. From ‘Oedipus’ to ‘Divine Comedy’ and ‘Gatsby’ to ‘Faustus’, May illumines his own talent beyond that of a hard-shelled psychologist, or scientist, and appears as a self-conscious existentialist commentator on myth and human life.

The merits of the book are manifest, as are its seams. May produces an easy English version of a topic otherwise vulnerable to philosophizing and linguistic complexity. The reader even need not have read the works being interpreted for the ‘mythemes’; a single passage masterfully compresses the plot. American life pattern of the day is probed in greater detail which, being a model for the post-industrial world, at first sounds a fair business.

Still, one cannot help thinking why whole three chapters have been devoted to the myth of Faust when a single, more compact one, would have sufficed. The implications of Oedipus’s myth are no less profound in our Narcissistic Age. An excessive treatment of American individualism might sound a little obsessed view, given the whole of Western World and May’s inattention to religious traditions of the West (Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Solomon, Christ). Then there are seemingly idiosyncratic terms coined like ‘Creative Waiting’.

The fourth part Myths for Survival virtually ends before starting. May’s cry for humans loving one another and be a great family of brothers and sisters sounds a little preachy (may be on account of a nonliterary plain language). One starts waiting for an extended version of this pastry since one is called on to love but never told ‘How’?

ISBN: 0393331776


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Why I’m Glad I had Breast Cancer

It is indeed the challenging title of Leonore H. Dvorkin’s latest nonfiction book ‘Why I’m Glad I Had Breast Cancer’ (WildSide Press, September 2005) that drives one to go for it. Only later does the reader feel glad for his choice as this short book makes a genuine case for looking at life in a positive light.

Dvorkin gives an account of her own experience of contracting breast cancer and choosing mastectomy for cure in the face of little social support, favoring her choice. Being a confident woman, well over fifty but physically strong, and a loving wife and mother, her account of life before and after mastectomy is remarkably unaffected and straightforward. Life came to her as a gift (being born three months premature) and she lived it in full swing, not surprisingly, more fully after her mastectomy. Not only does she retain her self-image of a healthy woman but also discovers the major factors responsible for the gross feminine self-concept with respect to breasts. A new image of the ‘athletic woman’ in American Society is thus born of Dvorkin’s genius.

An unsurpassed merit of the book is that the author is not bent on dramatizing situations. Emotional moments are narrated with their normal force: the news of having cancer, emotional parting with her elder sister before the mastectomy, the sacrifice to let her husband keep his fertility while she undergoes hysterectomy, and the loss of a breast versus more sorrowful losses that we all suffer throughout our lives. Dvorkin’s realistic style of narration adds enormously to the emotional impact of her story.

Lesson after lesson comes as a precious gift of Dvorkin’s brave encounter with cancer. We realize how others care about us; that shadows of suffering can be ousted with the bliss of intellectual achievement; that fear can be harnessed by reason; that aging is not the worst threat; that we must look at how far we can go from here instead of pitying over what we have been. Two great lessons of the book are most inspiring. First, real freedom lies in becoming one’s true self, ever freer of the expectations of others. Secondly, how to be self-conscious to the right degree and in the right way.

Dvorkin’s ‘Why I’m Glad I Had Breast Cancer’ is the gift of her wisdom and fortitude not to be missed by any woman in particular, and anyone in general.

ISBN: 0-8095-1096-0

WildSide Press:
Amazon : Dvorkin’s homepage:

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bringing Up Ziggy: What Raising a Helping Hands Monkey Taught Me About Love, Commitment and Sacrifice

Amusing, inspiring, guiding, and educational are only some of the adjectives I can use to describe Andrea Campbell’s Bringing Up Ziggy (1999, Renaissance Books, Los Angeles). In memoir fashion, Campbell relates her experience as foster mother for a Helping Hands capuchin monkey. When grown, Ziggy will be trained to act as a helper/companion and will then be donated to a quadriplegic, someone who is paralyzed and lives in a wheelchair. The cause is admirable, but the immediacy of a baby monkey needing a mother becomes the foremost feature in Campbell’s book; a true, seat-of-the-pants tale that is more lovely than love itself.

Andrea Campbell’s account of rearing Ziggy is really a story of courage. And her courage is driven more by intellect, as she is a woman who tries to understand and incorporate the challenging joys of this new lifeform into her own life, while coping with the needs of a growing family. Like a juggler, she takes on the motherly role for this unique monkey-child and stays the course in spite of scratches, bites, and surgery, all the while still caring for her own young sons and husband, in addition to managing a freelance writing career. What more can a person pull off? But Campbell’s greatest achievement, which unfolds in this book like pieces from a time capsule, is the growth of her selfless love for this needy and complex furry child, her capuchin. Despite knowing that Ziggy will eventually leave her to be the helping hands and love companion to someone else, Campbell wholeheartedly accepts this weird, new motherhood adventure for one of our closest evolutionary relatives. Her bond with Ziggy becomes a symbol of love between primates, and a link for humans who fight for a life filled with meaning and important minutes.

As an author, Andrea Campbell tells a personal and well-thought out narration and her story has many funny bits. For example, she doesn’t miss the moment when a neighboring child who is fascinated with Ziggy asks, “Does she play cards?” And a sense of humor shows up spontaneously in her other observations: “…these are just a few reasons why this organization is so successful at training monkeys and handling people—two very similar acts.”

What moves to tears is by her gift of explaining certain facts that help the reader to realize that animals have emotions and a right to be respected too. In Chapter 7, she tells the story of Roger Fouts and his dear chimp Booee. Fouts, a primatologist, has lovingly taught sign language and nurtured Booee for several years when they are parted by politics and funding. Booee suffers 13 years of confinement in a biomedical research lab and will soon be reunited with Fouts, his parent and friend. Fouts, clearly in despair over the brief reunion wondered if Booee would remember him, and how he would act? Booee not only remembered his former friend, but he spelled out his nickname “Rodg” in American Sign Language!

In a chapter called ‘Ladder of Emotions,’ Campbell shares how she was blinded for three days because of an accidental corneal scratch administered by an exuberant Ziggy. She uses this instance of falling away from comfort to raise our level of compassion by feeling for all those who have lost the luxury of movement, sight, or hearing.

Bringing Up Ziggy also teaches us a lot about monkeys’ behavior and emotions, their capacity for learning, their extraordinary gymnastic abilities, and certain other qualities humans would do well to study. For example, Campbell notices an exemplary quality in capuchins with their urge for immediate reconciliation, one of their most powerful inclinations. She suggests that this quality could be better taught our own children, if we just left them on their own more often to resolve their childish disputes. And Campbell emphatically reinforces her argument in favor of animals having soul by saying: “And who thinks that animals have no soul? I personally believe it’s better to err on the side ‘for’ soul.”

Andrea Campbell is a savvy author in that she makes sure her book doesn’t sound monotonous by including her family’s viewpoints about Ziggy in the chapter ‘Other Voices’. There is also an amusing photo album at the end of the book. And certainly some great quotes at the beginning of chapters. Take for instance: “a man however well behaved, at best is only a monkey shaved!’

Bringing Up Ziggy is an adorable read. In a sense it is a challenging book: How can one resist falling in love with it?


Monday, July 25, 2005

Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe

ISBN: 0-387-98701-0

Rare Earth (2000,Copernicus Press, New York) begins as a challenging book from its introduction which defines the Rare Earth Hypothesis as commonness of simple life and the rarity of complex life in the universe. Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee claim that their hypothesis will reverse the decentering trend, namely that our earth is not the one planet with life but one of many. A renewed perspective of the long-held belief in the uniqueness of earth and its life.

Among the number of argued reasons for the unity of earth, with respect to complex life, are: earth’s proper position in space, a core at the earth’s center, ambient surface temperature, moon’s perfect distance from the earth, and so on. There is much information both in figures and in the form of historical evidences and reconstruction. All the facts indicate the scholarship of the authors who are bent on proving the rarity of our planet as the sole carrier of complex life.

What makes the book, and the hypothesis, debatable is the weight of the proposed rarity factors in relationship to the mainstream cosmology. Offering details of earth’s phenomena only confines one’s vision to our planet, as one is naturally inclined to do. It does not refute the numerous possibilities of such phenomena on other planets, lots of which might be enjoying the same or even better living conditions somewhere in the remote space. Should we consider earth rare only because we are unable to know about other instances? All the observable part of the universe (Moon, Mars, Europa etc.) that the authors mention for comparison purpose is indeed a negligibly small part of Carl Sagan’s or Stephen Hawking’s universe. The Drake Equation, used to predict the possible number of civilizations in our galaxy, is confined to a single galaxy, our Milky Way. How many such galaxies are there in the universe? The authors seem to be assuming too much in adding their own factors to produce a modified Drake Equation. Nevertheless, the founders of Rare Earth Hypothesis grant that many unknowns exist (structure of solar system, biogeochemical processes affecting the origin of life etc.) in the way of accepting Rare Earth Hypothesis at this stage of our knowledge.

Rare Earth is informative and challenging. It has a special appeal for those who tend to see intelligent life, as of humans, as something unique. Equally, it captures the interest of those who have accepted the main stream cosmological view on the existence of life in the universe. Most importantly, Rare Earth is a book that motivates to get tuned to all possible sources of information on the issue. Just a few months back, in March 2005, NASA’s scientists directly detected light reflected by two extra-solar planets. According to the news, at least 130 stars outside our solar system have been shown to have orbiting planets. A curious mind can hardly keep from thinking what number of planets might be in the whole universe. In the context of such, and possibly coming, discoveries we might ask ourselves Is our life indeed a rare phenomenon?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Simple Pleasures of the Kitchen

The latest in Susannah Seton’s Simple Pleasures series is Simples Pleasures of the Kitchen (Conari Press, Boston, 2005). Seton gives us a wonderful anthology of food stories, recipes, crafts, quotes, and clips from famous works, contributed by writers around the world, including Seton herself.

In his introduction to the book, Jonathan King declares, ‘My kitchen is without doubt the heart of my home.’ Susannah Seton takes this up to make her book an attraction for any and every member of a home through all the seasons of the year. Corresponding to the four seasons of the year, the book has four divisions: Spring Flings, The Savor of Summer, Autumn’s Abundance, and Cozying Up in Winter. All sections teach a lot: cooking, decorating, making kitchen calendars, napkins, and candleholders, and many things that one needs in a home kitchen. Common to all the items are two merits: simplicity and brevity. For readership, this means ease and alacrity to practice one’s hands on the items presented. What pleasure lies in preparing a simple snack and relishing it, you get to know from Seton’s book.

Simple Pleasures of the Kitchen is not for the gourmand only. It is a book of memories stirred by things as simple as a nice cup of coffee, or a loaf of hot bread. Writers share the memories of their parents, grandparents, family, houses, pets, and rides-everything that inspired the soul with a tickle in the stomach. Some of these are nostalgic, others just light and entertaining, and still others motivating. Modes change with flavors.

Among the micro-items of the book are interesting quotes by some very celebrated names like Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, Henry James, Cervantes, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, and many others, all joining life with food. Proverbs of some languages tell us cultural food themes. And of course there are interesting bits of information, as one by Boyd Matson: “Believe it or not, Americans eat 75 acres of pizza a day.”

Simple Pleasures of the Kitchen is a book for all those who eat and know its joy. Those who do not can get it from Susannah Seton’s book.

ISBN: 1-57324-871-1


Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Virtual Community

‘Anyone interested in the next twenty years must read this book’ marks the Financial Times on the back cover of Howard Rheingold’s The Virtual Community (Secker & Werburg Limited, 1994). The remark holds well for all those who are interested in the history of communication via computers. Today’s worldwideweb has a history. The Virtual Community ventures to explore its development and evolution since the 1970’s ARPANet, the first computer network created by the US Defense Department.

Rheingold, of Virtual Reality’s fame, is a technology guru. He is at home in analyzing technological devices and systems, in tracing their roots and pointing to their prospects. The Virtual Community has a lot to convey on computer communications: modems, hypertext documents, bulletin-board systems, operating systems, Gopher, Multi-User Dungeons, computer wizards, channel operators, and much more. The author covers virtually everything that is used in what is termed ‘computer-mediated communications’ (CMC). Like all good books, this one makes specialized things simple and easy to grasp.

Of particular interest to regular e-mail users is an illustration of messages made via the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (WELL), the first practical Internet allowing e-mails around the world. The messages included are varied from a few lines on weather to accounts of one’s spiritual concerns. Rheingold weaves them into a story of his personal experience of WELL. Instances of WELL messages permeate more than one chapter.

While The Virtual Community essentially narrates the evolution of CMC in the US, it dedicates a chapter to that in Japan. The author tells how his Japanese acquaintance, Aizu-san and Hattori-san, “literally opened a whole new world” to him. Interesting things are conveyed like the ban on using modems in Japan until 1985 and Aizu’s observation that Americans wanted to use CMC primarily to connect with each other, and only secondarily to download information.

Perhaps, the most significant aspect of The Virtual Community is its prophetic concern regarding the influence of a computerized system of information and communication. It informs of the “innocent Frenchmen who died under police gunfire as a result of a glitch in a poorly designed police computer network”. The computerized community is not seen as an essentially conflict-free environment. It always runs the risk of becoming a “camouflaged Panoptican”. Rheingold’s genius points out the way the number of owners or telecommunication channels is narrowing to a tiny elite while the reach and power of the media they own expand. He summarizes the concept of “electronic democracy” in the question “Which scenario seems more conducive to democracy, which to totalitarian rule: a world in which a few people control communications technology that can be used to manipulate the beliefs of billions, or a world in which every citizen can broadcast to every other citizen?”

ISBN: 0-436-20208-5

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism:The Turn of the Screw

ISBN: 0-312-08083-2

Priscilla L. Walton reminds us that The Turn of the Screw has been called the “small problem child” of Henry James’s fiction. We remember James for the intricacies of his psychologically woven plots, both in novel and in short fiction. The Turn of the Screw is one such instance of his work. The novella (or novel) is a first person account of a young governess in the house of a rich widower with two children. The hook in the story is the apparent presence of a ghost in the house which, at times, seems to possess one of the children. The duality of interpretation lies in whether it is a ghost story (the ghost is real) or a case study of madness (the governess is psychotic).

The series ‘Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism’ does more than explaining the meaning of James’s story. Published by Bedford Books (1995; Boston, New York), the book presents practical criticism on The Turn of the Screw in the form of essays, edited by Peter G. Beidler.

Preceding the story are the biographical and historical contexts. After the story’s text, a critical history of the work outlines the significant situations and briefly relates them to different schools of literary criticism.

Four important schools of criticism are first defined and explained, and then a critic from each field interprets The Turn of the Screw by his/her respective approach. Wayne C. Booth comments on the reader-response interpretation of the story followed by the specialized Deconstructionist perspective of Shoshana Felman. Stanley Renner takes a Psychoanalytic view of the governess’ encounters with the ghost. Priscilla L. Walton poses the issue of Feminine Subjectivity with reference to the experiences of the young governess. Bruce Robbins offers a Marxist view of the governess’ position in a rich man’s house.

A glossary of Critical and Theoretical Terms, at the end of the book, helps the reader understand the basic concepts addressed in the essays. Still, the book is essentially an academic read. For students of literature and writers, especially those who adhere to Structuralism, it is a Bedford gift that makes more meanings of works like James’s; works that need critical exploration to appear meaningful at all.

The last thing to note about the book is, perhaps, its glossy title cover: a front view of the same house appearing in four squares; graphically, a signal to multiply one’s viewpoint.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Great Short Stories of the English Speaking World

Great Short Stories of the English Speaking World (Vol. 1) is one book that brings to readers 'Best of the Best' in the world of short fiction. Published first in 1977, in hard cover by The Reader's Digest Association, it is an anthology of fifty one masterly written stories by some of the world's most celebrated authors. Among these are names as Jack London, D.H. Lawrence, Eudora Welty, Somerset Maugham, Edgar Alan Poe, Frank Stockton, Ernest Hemingway, and so on.

In her introduction to the book, Rumer Godden regards the astonishing variety of the stories as the most striking aspect of the collection. And this accords with almost every element of the anthology. Thematically, the stories sweep a remarkable range from Carson McCullers' fears of an insecure kid (The Haunted Boy), to Margaret Drabble's heart-felt memories of love (The Reunion), and Jack London's frailty of man in the openness of nature (To Build a Fire).

The stories have a sundry style, from W.S. Maugham's character-centered Louise, to Marc Connelly's Coroner's Inquest with abstract characters, and Ring Lardner's epistolary I Can't Breathe. Narration too varies from tale to tale.

The most elegant feature of the anthology however comes in the form of its semantic richness. Virtually no part of human existence remains untouched in one or another of these literary pieces; be it the reshuffling of a dormant consciousness (Eudora Welty's The Key), the tragedy of war (Bates' The Young Man from Kalgoorlie), or the learning of a young one to live on its own (O'Flaherty's His First Flight).

Certainly these stories are deep in the context of their meanings but that does not imply their being all somber or overly serious. The Magic Shop, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Lumber Room, and the fantastic The Lady or the Tiger are some of those stories that engage the reader thoroughly in their witty and superb weavings of the plot.

Finally, Great Short Stories of the English Speaking World is for all audiences. With Kipling's The Elephant's Child to Joy Cowley's The Silk, one book has bridged the reading interests of three generations.

And yes, at the end of the book, there is also a list of short biographical notes for every author in the collection;

In one sentence, this is the English Short Story World for a short fiction lover whether a beginner or an erudite.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Peer Prejudice and Discrimination

Dr. Harold Fishbein, professor of psychology at the University of Cincinnati, stands among the modern forerunners of Developmental Psychology. His book Peer Prejudice and Discrimination (1966, Westview Press) speaks for it. Winner of the 1996 Eleanor Maccoby Book Award in Developmental Psychology, it forms a treatise on the evolutionary basis of human prejudice and subsequent discrimination.

Starting with simple definitions, the author explores the process of prejudicial development with brief histories of certain groups which have been the target of discriminatory treatment. Among these are Females, African-Americans, the Deaf, and the Mentally Retarded.

Part of the interest the author arouses lies in the discovery of the role our genetic apparatus plays in shaping our attitude. The topic Behavior Genetics reckons modern humans as ‘Hunter-Gatherer Minds in Post-Industrial Bodies.’ The assumption the book makes is that human genes are quite old and hence poorly capable to deal with the rapidly transformed societies. This seems to intimate that humans are not responsible for their own prejudice; only their genes are. But it is already imparted that genetic contribution to overall human behavior is 30 to 60 percent. Hence we are all, to varying degrees, free to make conscious modification of our behavior.

The final of the six chapters deals with strategies of modifying prejudice and discrimination. Two theories are presented to bring about a change in attitude:
The Contact Theory, stressing desegregation of different groups by bringing them together in daily interactions; and The Lewinian Theory, calling for the need to suppress strain in social interactions and hence allow the development of more positive attitudes.

One suggestion Dr. Fishbein makes at the end of the book is that challenging discrimination is more likely to succeed in modifying prejudice than challenging prejudice directly. It’s easy to see why: seeds of prejudice lie in overt discriminatory behavior.

The social implications of Dr. Fishbein’s studies are enormous. Uprooting prejudice and discrimination is the ultimate means of creating a harmonious world where peace reigns oblivious to any threat culturally-rooted in human mind.

ISBN: 9780813330532

A Curtain of Green and Other Stories

From the HBJ Modern Classic series comes Eudora Welty’s A Curtain of Green and Other Stories in hard cover, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, Orlando, Florida (1991). The book gathers seventeen of Welty’s stories in 228 pages and maintains Katherine Anne Porter’s introduction to the original edition of A Curtain of Green published in 1941.

There are storybooks that have an appeal to a vast majority of readers because of the themes, characters, and situations of the stories. The simplicity implicit in such writing is far from being found in A Curtain of Green… though these stories are rich in meaning and the less express modes of human existence. Katherine Porter points out their complexity in her introduction by commenting ‘the approach is simple and direct in method, though the themes and moods are anything but simple.’

But then there are those who evaluate literary pieces on the criterion of the voices given to felt but not expressed realities of experience. These are the stories for such readers. From Lily Daw and the Three Ladies and Why I live at the P.O. to The Key and A Curtain of Green, there is a dormant power, a potential monster of consciousness that suddenly wakes up into real life, or looks this way, by a seemingly trivial event. In The Key it is the clink of a key at a station’s waiting room that gives voice to the oblivion of relationship. In The Whistle it is the sound of the whistle blown to warn of cold that revitalizes an aging couple’s relationship. And in A Curtain of Green a boy’s smile evokes the repressed rage of a widow who has grown a green natural curtain around her garden, woven with the one around her anxious and vindictive consciousness.
At times, the book feels a collage of scenes from some innocent lunatic’s dreams. Nevertheless, it makes a strong case for peeping into one’s own self, while standing outside of it. This depersonalized objectivity gives A Curtain of Green a quasi-philosophical appeal.

The setting of all the stories is a not-so-big town, and all those who have a fancy for the country side life would certainly feel an ambience worth recalling in them.
The print is simple, and the title cover, just a nice jacket designed to look like the gate to a green curtain. What the lost mien of the lady on the title signifies, the readers are to settle themselves.

In one sentence, A Curtain of Green and Other Stories is a book to enjoy in at least two readings; one to pick up the stories and be mazed by them, and the other to enjoy them.

ISBN: 0-15-123671-2

Reinventing the Future

Good books bridge profound realities to lay minds. Great books do so in an interesting way. Reinventing the Future, by Thomas A. Bass, is one of those books that take the readers to cruise through the maze of scientific research while keeping their giddiness at bay.

Published first in 1994 by Addison-Wesley Company, Reinventing the Future is an academic read in a fairly simple form of interviews with eleven leading scientists of our time. These include: Sarah Hrdy, Luc Montagnier, James Black, Thomas Adeoye Lambo, Etienne-Emile Baulieu, Richard Dawkins, Farouk El-Baz, Bert Sakmann, Jonathan Mann, Norman Packard, and Mary-Claire King. Apart from being Nobel laureates, Bass finds their commonality in that they all see themselves as ‘outsiders and rebels’. The fact that each of these scientist’s work has invoked some controversy, academic or political, is a hook in reading this collection.

The topics addressed are varied, ranging from Dawkins’ socio-biological behavior of humans to Baulieu’s ‘abortion pill’-RU 486, and Packard’s ‘Chaos Cabal’ that tracks the degree of disorder and unpredictability in the universe.

Thomas A. Bass keeps a rather informal mode of questioning so that the personal inclinations behind academic achievements are revealed. In effect, these interviews are inspiring as much as they are informative. Certainly, it is challenging in the content and can prove somewhat disturbing in effect to the orthodox and the conventionalist. But it does open numerous pathways to question and reconsider our concepts of things we tend to take for granted.

Despite all its interesting style and informal easiness of conversation, Reinventing the Future is an academic read. It is a book for the serious mind, active at thinking and ready to question. It is a book to start entering with into the channels of scientific concepts and their implications. Some of the many questions, the book touches on, include:
What is the evolutionary side of sex and mating in primates? What story lies behind the discovery of HIV virus? Is the universe really so well ordered as we have believed it to be? How can the ancient air rapped in the pyramids of Egypt be used to correlate ancient and modern environments? Who controls life, man or gene? Are science and superstition compatible in some societies?

Reinventing the Future is for all those who are interested in mainstream science of our age and its relation to life. For college students and upwards, it is just what the doctor ordered.

ISBN: 0-201-40795-7